melted_snowball: (food)
[personal profile] melted_snowball
Alissa Hamilton's Squeezed is a book about processed orange juice.

What's to know? Orange juice, after all, is "100% orange, pure and natural".

Actually, much of what's to know is available right on Tropicana's website, which kind of blunts the claim of the book that they're trying to lie to you.

Anyhow, what is to know? Well, both pasteurized orange juice and concentrated orange juice, if you created them in the obvious ways, would taste awful. So in both cases, what happens is that a quantity of fresh juice or of orange oil is added to them; both concentration and pasteurization destroy these flavour components.

Also, ready-to-serve "not from concentrate" brands turn out to be pasteurized twice: once when they're juiced and placed into huge chilled OJ tanks, and once when they're to be put in cartons or bottles. This means that the "less processed" image of this kind of OJ is totally bullshit. Once upon a time, it was actually a little better: they were frozen straight after being juiced, and then pasteurized right before being bottled.

Another funny situation is that the "Florida" image that Tropicana and Minute Maid cultivate is increasingly bullshit: the actual juice processing plants, including those in Florida, are owned by Brazilian companies these days, while Tropicana and Minute Maid are largely marketing companies. (This is not, one notes, much different from the state of affairs for pet foods; after the melamine-in-pet-food scandal a couple years ago, one of the surprising facts is just how many different pet food companies Menu Foods made pet food for.) Anyhow, most American juice manufacturers are starting to use Brazilian concentrate (or pasteurized not-concentrate) in their production of OJ. They don't have to actually document the quantity of this in their label; they can just say, "from the US, Brazil and South Africa" or whatever.

All of this is vaguely interesting, but the book enters some weird rhetorical flights of absurdity, which gets tiring. Not just the one I posted about a few days ago, but she also waxes at length about how much consumers want more of a connection to all of the steps in their food's processing. I don't really think that's so; probably some do, but others still enjoy their Twinkies, thanksverymuch.

The book ends with a big jeremiad about how awful it is that citrus farming in Florida is losing out to the state being a giant condo community for retirees, and how terrible foreign (Brazilian, in this case) food is for US society.

This really amuses me, because of course, Floridians, until the Brazilians started selling more, used to supply the world with lots of its OJ. So, um, is international trade in foodstuffs only a good thing when it's exported, not imported? Oh, okay. Good to know.

Really, orange juice, like any other commodity is manufactured and standardized. We shouldn't be surprised that international trading partners enter into the process of producing it, and that as a consequence of that, it becomes less possible for people in the First World to make a living producing it. In fact, we should be surprised if that didn't happen.

A couple of other thoughts about OJ. First, I know people who prefer reconstituted OJ or pasteurized OJ to fresh-squeezed. I'm pretty sure my mom does, in particular. Do you?

And second, it does interest me that juice oranges are worth something like $3/bushel to growers. I don't want to think about how much more I pay for them when I buy them here and juice them in my food processor.

Oh, and it should be clear, but don't waste your time reading this book. This could have been an okay Harper's article of 5 or 10 pages, but 200 is way, way too much.

Date: 2009-07-28 12:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This topic is interesting. Thanks for the summary so I don't have to read it myself.

I only drink fresh-squeezed, if at all. I'm not much of a juice drinker, so even that is maybe once a year. Dr. Thingo must have his not-from-concentrate (or fresh-squeezed if he's lucky) every single morning.

Date: 2009-07-28 01:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I know people who insist that the not-from-concentrate juice is less acidic and more pleasant to drink. I also thought this was twaddle, and now I can back that up. Pasteurized twice, just what you need.

Thanks for the summary, this was interesting and I'm glad I don't have to read the whole book.

Date: 2009-07-28 01:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
thanks for reading this to save your dear readers the effort!

I wasn't inclined to read it because I didn't expect to be surprised.
So it's this processed drink (much like my milk, I'd argue, except that they add orange oil), which tastes good to me, has some vitamins, and bears some relationship to the fruit. And it's not "fresh from the grove", it sits around in big vats for a while first. Oh, the horror.

If they want to tell me that it doesn't actually contain any vitamin c, or is likely to be contaminated with weirdshit in addition to the vitamin C(no, orange oil is not weirdshit), etc, then I'd probably be more shocked.

Date: 2009-07-28 02:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Actually, much of what's to know is available right on Tropicana's website, which kind of blunts the claim of the book that they're trying to lie to you.
This raises the interesting question of whether the information *was* on Tropicana's web site before these (gasp!) horrendous revelations. The latest snapshot of is from January '08, and that doesn't seem to contain any useful info on what goes in their juice...

Date: 2009-07-28 02:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you for reviewing the book. My mom called about the issue, all upset by a radio show on it. I had the impression that the manufacturer was putting _artificial_ flavours into the juice. That would bother me, but the natural flavours are no biggie.

I do however object to the energy expended in shipping liquid long distances. So I will stick to the frozen concentrate, to reduce carbon emissions. (Hm, I wonder if shipping a smaller can in a freezer truck costs more energy than shipping a large jug in a fridge truck...)

Date: 2009-07-28 02:09 am (UTC)
navrins: (Default)
From: [personal profile] navrins
I definitely prefer Tropicana-type orange juice to fresh squeezed. I don't think I can tell the difference between "not-from-concentrate" and "from concentrate," though I think I can sometimes tell the difference with apple juice.

Date: 2009-07-28 02:31 am (UTC)
dpolicar: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dpolicar
Fresh-squeezed OJ is a completely different drink from carton OJ, in much the same way that, say, cranberry juice is. I'm fond of both of them, but I can only drink a little of the former at a time.

Date: 2009-07-28 03:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
she also waxes at length about how much consumers want more of a connection to all of the steps in their food's processing

Indeed. That is why you see so many people with axes held over their heads running around crying "here, piggy piggy, here!".

With regards to fresh-squeezed: I do like it, but feel it is absurdly expensive. No doubt because if they could just squeeze it at the distribution plant and ship the end product it costs a lot less. But if you can get citrus fruit at a discount it is so much tastier.

Date: 2009-07-28 03:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What? You mean they didn't stick a straw directly in the orange for me to drink? I'm outraged!

I feel the same way as you about great swaths of non-fiction. Most of it does not need to be a book. But articles just don't have the same cultural cache or bang for their buck.

Date: 2009-07-28 09:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, geez, I am so surprised by what the author has to say that I'm glad I'm sitting or I'd be fainting... :-P

I can tell which is freshly squeezed, which one is not from concentrate and which one is from concentrate. Not a big deal. If they all had different names, no one would blink and it'd be perfectly OK, just like the different kinds of chocolate or coffee. I can even drink instant coffee, as long as I have not been misled into thinking I'd be getting real coffee.

What I think is that the several kinds of OJ have a different balance of flavors, both not-from concentrate and concentrated taste cooked but I figure that for people who never had or rarely have OJ freshly squeezed from real oranges, they might get confused into thinking NFC is the real deal. It's not. Moreover, I grew up used to having dozens of different breeds of oranges, and people can tell what kind of orange the OJ is from in places like that -- it's about the same as people who can tell what kinds of apples, peaches etc they're tasting here. One of the reasons OJ tastes weird here is that they mix several kinds of oranges to try and balance the flavor and get some flavor consistency. Also, by the time oranges get to us in the supermarkets, they're not as fresh either, which changes the flavor a bit.

Anyway, like I said, I prefer fresh oranges freshly squeezed, but I'm perfectly willing to not only drink, but we actually buy the other kinds. We've been buying stuff like Simply Orange or Tropicana or Florida's Natural (I think that's the name?) because I prefer the balance of flavor, but we also buy frozen (concentrated OJ) sometimes.

Date: 2009-07-28 01:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Fresh squeezed > NFC >> frozen. I suppose I'm disappointed to learn the shocking truth about Pure Premium and its ilk, though (1) it would be surprising if there weren't magic processing steps, given how different it tastes from fresh squeezed, (2) it really is much nicer to drink than frozen (which they're serving at The Banff Centre, grrr), and (3) ultimately it's not bad for you. If I found out they were enhancing the flavour with Liquid Cancer, I would change my ways.

Date: 2009-07-28 03:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"she also waxes at length about how much consumers want more of a connection to all of the steps in their food's processing"

Strikes me as perhaps being the product of an echo chamber effect. Maybe that's more true in some regions (hers). But I don't think that's *really* the case even here, and out east that kind of talk is just the sort of thing a liberal rabblerouser from Ontario would come up with to begin with, and we don't take kindly to rabblerousers around these here parts unless they're OUR rabblerousers. Albertans would say they're already close enough to the moocows thankyouverymuch. I don't know what BCers think.

I certainly don't care much. I have enough other things to care about.

Date: 2009-07-29 01:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am highly amused at the timing of this post. I rarely spend money on orange juice; I usually think of it as being in the "gosh I wish I could afford that" category...but this week I'm trying to convince myself that I'm not as poor as I think I am, so I bought a big ol' Tropicana Orange Juice With Extra Pulp as a luxurious treat. So I'm sitting here drinking this orange juice, which I never have, and here I find this post. ZING!

It sure is delicious. :)
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